cried Andy Snow, stepping up to John Fenwick.
“Don’t!” screamed the lank boy, and turning, he ran off at top speed. “Come on, Dan!” he called out, when at a safe distance. “Don’t have anything more to do with ’em!”
By this time a crowd of a dozen was beginning to collect. Dan Baxter gazed around uneasily.
“We’ll settle this some other time,” he muttered, and edged away.
“Better settle it now,” retorted Jack.
“I—I’ve got something else to do,” faltered Dan Baxter, and then he turned and followed his toady.
“Baxter is afraid of you, Jack,” came from Andy Snow. “He’s a bully if ever there was one.”
“He certainly is a bully.”
“A thrashing would do him good.”
“Well, he’ll get it unless he minds what he is doing.”
“It was a mean trick of Mumps to throw mud in at the windows,” went on Andy Snow, as they walked away. “I had just put on a clean shirt when it hit me in the shoulder.”
“Mumps is as much of a mean sneak as Baxter is a bully, Andy. They make a fine team.”
“Where are you bound?”
“Pepper Ditmore and I were going for a row on the lake, but Pep got into trouble with Mr. Crabtree and had to go to the classroom.”
“I’ll go for a row if you wish.”
“All right. We haven’t much time, but we can take a short row anyway. It’s a pity Pep isn’t along.”
“You and he are great chums, aren’t you?”
“Yes. You see, it is this way: His father and mine were old college chums, and we take after them. Besides that, his father and mine are associated in several business affairs.”
The boathouse was soon gained, and the two cadets brought forth a rowboat of fair size, and two pairs of oars.
“Hullo, you fellers!” came from back of the boathouse. “Is it yerselves that’s afther wantin’ company, I don’t know? If yez do, it’s meself will be afther comin’ along.”
“Hullo, Emerald!” returned Jack. “Yes, come on if you wish—there is room enough.”
“It’s meself that would loike to learn how to row,” said Joseph Hogan, as he stepped into the craft. He was a pleasant-faced Irish lad, who had come to Putnam Hall on the day the institution opened.
“All right, Emerald, we’ll give you lessons,” came from Andy Snow. “Wait till we get out on the lake.”
The craft was shoved off, and Jack and Andy seated themselves at the oars. Soon they were gliding over the surface of Cayuga Lake in fine style.
“Sure, an’ it looks aisy enough,” said Hogan.
“It is easy—after you know how,” answered Andy. “By the way,” he went on to Jack, “are you going in for that boat race next week?”
“Yes, and so is Pepper.”
“Good enough. I hope you both win.”
As soon as they were well out on the lake both boys stopped rowing, and allowed Joseph Hogan to take a pair of the oars.
“Now, take hold this way,” said Andy Snow, “and pull like this.”
The Irish lad tried. At first his blades slipped quite frequently, and once he splashed some water into the craft.
“Look out!” cried Jack. “Emerald, we’ve had all the bath we want.”
“Sure, an’ I didn’t mane to wet yez,” was the answer. “The oars schlipped before I knew it!”
In a few minutes the Irish boy was doing better, and they turned down the lake. As they did this they noticed a small sailing boat approaching.
“There’s that craft again!” cried Jack.
“What craft is that, Jack?”
“Oh, I forgot, Andy. It’s a sloop Pepper and I saw day before yesterday. We thought the fellows on board acted queerly.”
“In what way?”
“They sailed up and down the shore at least ten times, as if they were on the lookout for something or somebody.”
“Who was on board?”
“Two men. I tried to catch a good look at their faces, but they wouldn’t give me a chance.”
“It’s certainly queer they should sail up and down here,” was Andy’s comment. “Did they come from Cedarville?”
“I don’t know.”
By this time the strange sloop was close at hand. The same two men were in command, but both kept their faces turned away as the rowboat glided by.
“Did you notice how they kept their faces hidden?” queried Jack.
“Sure, I did that,” answered Hogan. “B’ys, they are up to some thrick.”
“It certainly is strange,” said Andy, thoughtfully. “See, they are turning back once more.”
“Perhaps they know some of the cadets, and would like to meet them.”
“More than likely they want to steal some of our boats.”
The sloop turned again on her course, and it was not long before both craft were only a short distance apart.
“I’m going to hail them, and learn what they have to say for themselves,” whispered Jack.
“Do it,” answered Andy.
At first there was no reply to this shout. Jack repeated the call, and Andy brought the rowboat still closer.
“What do you want?” growled one of the men on the sloop, finally.
“Fine day,” said Jack, brightly.
To this there was no answer.
“Looking for anybody around here?” came from Andy.
“Saw you cruising around here day before yesterday, didn’t I?” continued Jack.
“Maybe you did. We’ve been out on the lake quite some the past week,” answered the second man.
“Thought, if you were looking for somebody, I might help you.”
“No, you can’t help us,” growled the one who had first spoken.
“Do you belong at Putnam Hall?” questioned the other occupant of the sloop.
“Sure, we do that,” answered Hogan.
“Got many pupils there now?”
“Forty or fifty so far,” said Jack.
“Humph! How many teachers?”
“Two regular teachers, besides Captain Putnam. Then we have others for French, and German, and music.”
“Who are the regular teachers?”
“Mr. Crabtree and Mr. Strong.”
“Do they stay there all the time?”
“It must grow rather monotonous for them.”
“Oh, we try to make it lively enough.”
“Don’t they ever go to town, or go boating?”
“Of course. Mr. Strong is quite an oarsman,” came from Andy, who had been out with the second assistant on more than one occasion.
At this announcement both of the men exchanged glances.
“You can come ashore and look at the school if you wish,” said Jack.
“No, thank you, we don’t care to do so,” was the hasty answer; and a moment later the sloop veered off, and was soon out of speaking distance.
“Well, they are a queer pair and no mistake,” murmured Jack. “Did you notice how one kept his hand over his forehead?”
“And how the other had his cap pulled far down over his eyes,” added Andy.
“Sure, an nayther of ’em looked roight sharp to me,” put in Hogan. “I’d not like to be spendin’ much toime in their company.”
“I believe they are up to something,” said Jack. “I’d like to know what it is.”
“Perhaps we’ll find out later,” answered Andy. And they did find out, in a manner that was as thrilling as it was astonishing.
A CASE OF BRIBERY
When the boys got back to the boathouse they found Pepper Ditmore awaiting them.